Gary Vee — The Icon of the Hustle Culture.
Everyone who has anything to do with entrepreneurship or investing must have seen Gary Vaynerchuk’s face at least once. It is everywhere in the media. Gary has over 38 million followers across social media, including Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Spotify, and more. Sometimes I feel that he will jump out of my fridge!
Especially in recent years, as the evangelist of the non-fungible tokens (NFT) movement, he has become an icon of pop culture. He was one of the first public figures who noticed the potential and chipped in with his own investment money only to make millions and millions as an NFT creator and influencer.
Gary is also one of the most active proponents of passionate, restless work, often referred to as a “hustle.” “Work hard!” Is one of his top 10 rules for success . As such, Gary has become one of the icons of the so-called Hustle Culture , worshipped by some and criticized by others.
This doesn’t come without controversy. I happen to live, work, and function in two fundamentally different working environments. One of them is PhD graduates who now populate large institutions, consultancy firms, corporations, and startups, using their brains to produce new solutions for all kinds of societal problems. The other one is young entrepreneurs with their ambitions to rock the world of business.
These two environments represent fundamentally different values. While researchers are primarily left-winged and interested in social matters, entrepreneurs are right-winged and interested in building wealth. These two groups of people have a drastically different view of who Gary Vee is.
To most researchers whom I met on my way, Gary is a helpless hustler — an opportunistic shark who wouldn’t waste any occasion to excite the dumb crowd and then make money on them. A man without manners who can openly tell his own fans that they suck just for entertainment and attention, and get claps for it. In academia, he is public enemy number two — right after Donald Trump .
However, to most entrepreneurs whom I met on my way, Gary is a synonym of self-made success, integrity in business, and visionary entrepreneurship. A mentor and authority in every way.
People are so polarized on Gary! At some point, I made the following discovery: “What do you think of Gary Vee?” Is the chat-up line that tells me almost everything about the mentality of the person I am talking to.
What Do I Think About Gary Vee?
For a long time, I was on the fence trying to answer “the Gary Vee question” for myself. I don’t have a natural sense of authority and I always look at idols with reservation.
On the one hand, Gary thinks that we are all suckers if we don’t get worldwide success in two years. What about people who develop stuff and bootstrap or those who work in pharma and take 10–15 to develop and properly test a new drug? Haven’t you ever taken any pill in your life Gary, so that you can now say that medicine sucks?
But on the other hand, did Gary Vee harm anyone? He is just sharing the vision of life that perfectly worked for himself. I have never heard his clients, coworkers or former employees accusing him of doing a bad job or being unkind. Rather the opposite: the closer to Gary, the more people are enthusiastic about him.
Plus, he promotes doing your own research and the idea of developing a conviction before you make any moves in your business or investments. I couldn’t agree more.
However, I didn’t feel satisfied with the depth of my knowledge about Gary Vee. I wanted to understand the genesis of Vee-mania better. So, who is Gary Vee? How did Gary Vaynerchuk even become Gary Vee in the first place? Does the name of his yearly conference, , also known as an “exclusive conference on web3 and culture,” accidentally contain the keyword “ “ or is this an excellent example of duping delight of a professional conman?
In the end, I decided to write this article — for education, and for my own peace of mind.
Who Gary Is Today.
He is considered one of the universal thinkers when it comes to merging tech, culture, art, and the Internet — and making impact. Known as “Gary Vee,” he is often referred to as one of the most progressive minds in business. He has a proven record for his ability to recognize trends and patterns in the market in advance to help businesses understand how these shifts will impact consumer behavior.
“People are chasing cash, not happiness. When you chase money, you’re going to lose. You’re just going to. Even if you get the money, you’re not going to be happy.”
What Gary Has Achieved So Far.
Gary is an entrepreneur by birth, and at heart. He just creates businesses with the same ease as you or me making a sandwich. He has a perfect understanding of how to build a brand, whether it means promoting a rising artist, investing in e-sports or NFTs. He is a successful angel investor with early investments in top tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Venmo, Snapchat, Coinbase, and Uber.
He now helps Fortune 1000 brands gain and shape consumer attention through his full-service advertising agency, VaynerMedia, with agencies in NY, LA, London, Mexico City, LATAM countries, and Singapore. VaynerMedia is part of the VaynerX holding company, including Eva Nosidam Productions, MFTN, VaynerNFT, Gallery Media Group, The Sasha Group, Tingley Lane, VaynerSpeakers, and VaynerCommerce.
Moreover, Gary is also the CEO of Empathy Wines, Resy, and VaynerSports. Gary guided Resy and Empathy to successful exits. Both companies were subsequently sold to American Express and Constellation Brands. He is also a Board Member at Candy Digital, a Co-Founder of VCR Group, a Co-Founder of ArtOfficial, and the Creator & CEO of one of the leading NFT projects, VeeFriends. Gary was lately listed at #10 in the Top 50 influential figures in the NFT industry ranking by Fortune Magazine.
In addition to running multiple businesses, Gary documents his daily life of a CEO through his multiple social media channels (including YouTube and Twitter) with a total of over 34 million followers and receives over 272 million yearly impressions across all channels. His podcast “The GaryVee Audio Experience” ranks among the top podcasts in the world.
He is also a five-time New York Times best-selling author and one of the most sought public speakers. He also serves on the board of Bojangles Restaurants, MikMak, Pencils of Promise, and GymShark. He is also a long-time honorary member of Charity Water.
The Modest Beginnings of Gary Vee.
Gary Vee was born on November 14, 1975 in , the largest and most fascinating city in Belarus. Three years later, his family immigrated to the United States. Before moving to Edison, New Jersey, he had lived with his eight family members in an apartment in Queens, New York. Gary has one sister and one brother. His father started earning in the US by working at a liquor store “ Shoppers Discount Liquors ,” in Springfield, New Jersey, owned by one of their relatives.
Since early childhood, Gary had an entrepreneurial mindset. He often calls himself a “purebred entrepreneur” and he has always been into making money — in any way possible.
His first business venture was selling flowers. Selling flowers, not trading them! Namely, he picked flowers from his neighbor’s garden and sold them to strangers in the streets. Somehow, he got away with this. In primary school, he put together a lemonade stand. He also dealt thousands of dollars worth of baseball cards and toys during his high school times.
Meanwhile, his father took control over the liquor shop and asked Gary to come over and manage his family business. So, at the age of 14, Gary joined his family’s retail wine business, packing ice for two dollars per hour. Meanwhile, he completed his graduation from North Hunterdon High School. He got his Bachelor’s degree in Management Science from Mount Ida College.
The Wine Library.
At that time, e-commerce was a fast-growing industry. When Gary sensed the potential of the Internet as a life-changing opportunity in the late 90s, he started converting his father’s liquor store into one of the first alcohol trading e-commerce platforms in the country. He soon built the business to the point of exponential growth. Renaming the business into “Wine Library” and turning it online with sales, Gary achieved an unprecedented rise in the company turnover from 3 million dollars to 60 million during his service.
In 2006, during his time at Wine Library, Gary started one of the first long-form episodic video shows on YouTube called WineLibraryTV. He produced the podcast nearly every day for five years. Gary’s charisma and uncanny capability to engage with his community landed him appearances on national TV, including top shows by Ellen Degeneres in 2007 and Conan O’Brien in 2008.
“Regardless of what you’re trying to accomplish you’ve got to tell the world about it.”
Gary Becomes an Investor.
After Conan O’Brien’s show, Gary’s popularity skyrocketed. This is when he leveraged his newly acquired fame to network in the world of IT and build strategic relationships with business moguls such as Mark Zuckerberg, Kevin Rose, Evan Williams, and Travis Kalanick.
The Career-Defining Moment for Gary Vaynerchuk.
Almost every public personality has a career-defining moment. And so it was for Gary Vaynerchuk. Namely, in 2008 he gave an iconic Keynote Talk at the Web 2.0 conference in New York City. This charismatic and truthful keynote speech would change the course of his entire career. This was the actual moment when Gary Vaynerchuk turned into Gary Vee.
After this authentic and feisty speech, he received an offer for a 1-million dollars, 10-book deal with Harper Collins. His first book, “Crush It!,” became a worldwide bestseller in 2009, setting the ground for all his communication, media, and marketing strategies.
Further Professional Activity By Gary Vee.
True to his word, while scaling his business, Gary continued to behave like a media company on his own, writing four more New York Times bestselling business books and turning into one of the most sought-after public speakers. Five years in, he launched AskGaryVee , a business and advice Q&A show online, which then led him to launch DailyVee , a full-blown vlog establishing his life as a CEO.
“There is never a bad time to start a business — unless you want to start a mediocre one.”
After growing his family business through what Gary calls “underpriced attention” — online ad tools including content creation, e-commerce, email marketing, and Google AdWords — Gary began his crusade as the voice of entrepreneurs online by producing original business content.
Namely, he started replicating what he had previously done for WineLibrary for other businesses and brands. In 2009, he co-founded VaynerMedia with his younger brother, AJ Vaynerchuk. Faithful to his DNA, Gary never raised startup funding. He kicked off the business in a conference room at Buddy Media Group and bootstrapped it.
In 2015, VaynerMedia made it to AdAge’s A-list agencies list. The company grew unexpectedly in the same year, with an annual turnover of 100 million dollars and 600 employees. In 2018, just 9 years after the launch, the company hired more than 800 employees, serving clients such as PepsiCo, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Chase, Subway, TikTok, Unilever, PRUDENTIAL, Kraft Heinz, AbInBev, NHL (National Hockey League), New York Jets, and many more.
VaynerMedia has built cutting-edge tools in online media, e-commerce, business strategy, Internet of Things (IoT), voice-processing, influencer marketing, individual branding, Social Media & Business (or, SMB) marketing, and in-house consulting. In 2017, VaynerMedia entered the publishing space by acquiring women’s magazine PureWow under the Gallery Media Group and restructuring it into VaynerX. In the summer of 2018, the alternate media brand under the Gallery Media Group umbrella, men’s lifestyle brand ONE37pm, was launched.
“Provide 51% of the value in a relationship, whether it’s with an employee, a client, or a stranger.”
— Gary Vaynerchuk
Further Professional Activity By Gary Vee.
True to his word, while scaling his business, Gary continued to behave like a media company on his own, writing four more New York Times bestselling business books and turning into one of the most sought-after public speakers. Five years in, he launched AskGaryVee, a business and advice Q&A show online, which then led him to launch DailyVee, a full-blown vlog establishing his life as a CEO.
By producing these shows, Gary created a new content creating strategy in business. He also broadcasts The GaryVee Audio Experience, one of the top 100 business podcasts worldwide, launching brand new episodes every single day.
In the fall of 2017, Gary released his first signature sneakers in collaboration with K-Swiss. The GaryVee 001 & GaryVee 002s were released in November 2017, the GaryVee 003s were released in July 2018 and lastly, the GaryVee 004s later that year.
Gary is also a dedicated, long-term fan of the New York Jets football team. He likes to say that buying the club is the top of his life ambitions.
“There is never a bad time to start a business — unless you want to start a mediocre one.”
— Gary Vaynerchuk
Gary Vee Today: Three Ingredients To an Icon.
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Gary is worth over 200 million dollars as of today. Nothing is known in public about his charity activities.
Recently, Gary’s flagship NFT project, VeeFriends, has received 50 million dollars in seed funding, which is the best sign that he is going nowhere and his career is only getting in speed. At the age of 46, he has all the media attention, and all the energy and contacts to keep on going and astonish the world of business and venture capital for another 30–40 years.
Today, Gary is followed and worshiped by a few generations — especially generation Z — for a few reasons.
Firstly, he is a self-made success and as such, one of the symbols of the American dream. Shipped from Belarus to the US at the age of three, he had a modest beginning and built his empire all by himself. As he likes to repeat over and over again, we live in times when you should be grateful to be alive and live your passion to the fullest. So, he not only became successful on his own, but he is also on a mission to install the passion to build projects in others.
Secondly, he is fantastic at sensing sentiment in the markets and following his gut feeling with respect to where the market goes. As such, he has become a trend-setter of sorts. He was one f the first business developers and investors to notice the potential of “web2” — hence, VaynerMedia. Now, he is one of the first to not the potential of “web3” — hence, VeeFriends.
Lastly, he likes to repeat his motto like a mantra: “Be kind.” He promotes kindness in business and this appeals to audiences worldwide. He is known for constantly interacting with his followers and with attendees of his public talks, surprising his fans with gestures of kindness, and treating others as equals. It seems that his energy for answering questions and mentoring others.
Why Is Gary Vee So Successful?
In conclusion, Gary Vee established himself as a top social media influencer after giving a keynote at Web 2.0 in 2008. However, before that, he had already marked his success through his entrepreneurial skills. Soon after saying goodbye to WineLibrary, he set his long-term goals and started building a career. Gary helped many businesses reach their market potential by providing his full-stack marketing services at VaynerMedia. He is still on his way to achieving his life dream of buying the New York Jets.
What can we attribute his success to? There are at least a few factors for success here:
1. Winning the hearts of his audience.
People love the underdog success stories. Gary is an ex-pat who had limited access to higher education in his youth, and who was pushed to do physical work at his father’s business before he ever got a chance to go his own way. He is not tall and he doesn’t look like a model or a Hollywood actor. And yet, despite all that, he has become a worldwide phenomenon and a household name. No wonder millions of young people resonate with his story.
2. Looking into the future.
Gary has a great sense of sentiment in the markets and the ability to catch new trends early. He is also not afraid of putting his money where his mind is and investing in assets that he has conviction in, even if they seem like counterintuitive choices at first.
For instance, he recently puzzled the NFT community by investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in early, vintage NFT collections overlooked by the crowd such as Plasma Bears .
3. Understanding the power of social media.
Gary is highly skilled in building an online following. In the interview with Tom Bilyeu , he explained that he consciously chose to go for the rockstar status to inspire people to choose the same way of living as him and promote the idea to be nice in business.
4. Capitalizing on his popularity.
At the same time, Gary is still a full-fledged entrepreneur. He knows how to capitalize on his popularity. His following helps him further grow VaynerMedia which is, conveniently, an e-commerce business. Which, in turn, helps him grow his following. What a Perpetuum mobile! It is almost like casting yourself as a movie star in a movie that you produce and direct. Well, that automatically makes you a movie star.
Conclusion: What Can Gary Vee’s Story Teach Us?
Well, one thing that we all can learn is that after years and years of going under the radar, one media appearance can change your whole career. This is how it all happened for Gary. He has become the Internet’s favorite for being an authentic truth-teller. That one conference talk changed his whole career and put it on the next level.
This story can also teach us that we create our own opportunities. There is no point in whining about how you look or what opportunities you got or didn’t get as a youngster. In the long term, given vision and passion, you can get really far.
Lastly, this story teaches us the power of the Internet. Today, a “career” is almost synonymous with an online presence. If you are not online, then you almost do not exist. Being present and documenting your moves online is important for building credibility and accountability long-term — which is exactly what I do here on this blog.
And what are your thoughts about Gary Vee? If you know any interesting trivia about Gary or have your thoughts about his career and success, please drop me a comment below and I will be happy to discuss it!
“Skills are cheap. Passion is priceless.”